Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 244Many other comparisons might be made, but these are sufficient to show that there is a great similarity between the two.[421:5] These similarities have led many Christian writers to believe that Jesus belonged to this order. Dr. Ginsburg, an advocate of this theory, says:
"It will hardly be doubted that our Saviour himself belonged to this holy brotherhood. This will especially be apparent when we remember that the whole Jewish community, at the advent of Christ, was divided into three parties, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, and that every Jew had to belong to one of these sects. Jesus, who, in all things, conformed to the Jewish law, and who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, would therefore naturally associate himself with that order of Judaism which was most congenial to his holy nature. Moreover, the fact that Christ, with the exception of once, was not heard of in public until his thirtieth year, implying that he lived in seclusion with this fraternity, and that though he frequently rebuked the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, he never denounced the Essenes, strongly confirms this conclusion."[421:6]
The facts—as Dr. Ginsburg calls them—which confirm his conclusions, are simply no facts at all. Jesus may or may not have been a member of this order; but when it is stated as a fact that he never rebuked the Essenes, it is implying too much. We know not whether the words said to have been uttered by Jesus were ever uttered by him or not, and it is almost certain that had he rebuked the Essenes, and had his words been written in the Gospels, they would not remain there long. We hear very little of the Essenes after A. D. 40,[421:7] therefore, when we read of the "primitive Christians," we are reading of Essenes, and others.
The statement that, with the exception of once, Jesus was not heard in public life till his thirtieth year, is also uncertain. One of the early Christian Fathers (Irenæus) tells us that he did not begin [Pg 422]to teach until he was forty years of age, or thereabout, and that he lived to be nearly fifty years old.[422:1] "The records of his life are very scanty; and these have been so shaped and colored and modified by the hands of ignorance and superstition and party prejudice and ecclesiastical purpose, that it is hard to be sure of the original outlines."
The similarity of the sentiments of the Essenes, or Therapeutæ, to those of the Church of Rome, induced the learned Jesuit, Nicolaus Serarius, to seek for them an honorable origin. He contended therefore, that they were Asideans, and derived them from the Rechabites, described so circumstantially in the thirty-fifth chapter of Jeremiah; at the same time, he asserted that the first Christian monks were Essenes.[422:2]
Mr. King, speaking of the Christian sect called Gnostics, says:
"Their chief doctrines had been held for centuries before (their time) in many of the cities of Asia Minor. There, it is probable, they first came into existence as 'Mystæ,' upon the establishment of a direct intercourse with India under the Seleucidæ and the Ptolemies. The colleges of Essenes and Megabyzae at Ephesus, the Orphics of Thrace, the Curetes of Crete, are all merely branches of one antique and common religion, and that originally Asiatic."[422:3]
"The introduction of Buddhism into Egypt and Palestine affords the only true solution of innumerable difficulties in the history of religion."[422:4]
"That Buddhism had actually been planted in the dominions of the Seleucidæ and Ptolemies (Palestine belonging to the former) before the beginning of the third century B. C., is proved to demonstration by a passage in the Edicts of Asoka, grandson of the famous Chandragupta, the Sandracottus of the Greeks. These edicts are engraven on a rock at Girnur, in Guzerat."[422:5]
Eusebius, in quoting from Philo concerning the Essenes, seems to take it for granted that they and the Christians were one and the same, and from the manner in which he writes, it would appear that it was generally understood so. He says that Philo called them "Worshipers," and concludes by saying:
"But whether he himself gave them this name, or whether at the beginning they were so called, when as yet the name of Christians was not everywhere published, I think it not needful curiosity to sift out."[422:6]
This celebrated ecclesiastical historian considered it very probable that the writings of the Essenic Therapeuts in Egypt had been incorporated into the gospels of the New Testament, and into some Pauline epistles. His words are:
"It is very likely that the commentaries (Scriptures) which were among them (the Essenes) were the Gospels, and the works of the apostles, and certain expositions of the ancient prophets, such as partly that epistle unto the Hebrews, and also the other epistles of Paul do contain."[423:1]
The principal doctrines and rites of the Essenes can be connected with the East, with Parsism, and especially with Buddhism. Among the doctrines which Essenes and Buddhists had in common was that of the Angel-Messiah.[423:2]
Godfrey Higgins says:
"The Essenes were called physicians of the soul, or Therapeutæ; being resident both in Judea and Egypt, they probably spoke or had their sacred books in Chaldee. They were Pythagoreans, as is proved by all their forms, ceremonies, and doctrines, and they called themselves sons of Jesse. If the Pythagoreans or Conobitæ, as they are called by Jamblicus, were Buddhists, the Essenes were Buddhists. The Essenes lived in Egypt, on the lake of Parembole or Maria, in monasteries. These are the very places in which we formerly found the Gymnosophists, or Samaneans, or Buddhist priests to have lived; which Gymnosophistæ are placed also by Ptolemy in north-eastern India."
"Their (the Essenes) parishes, churches, bishops, priests, deacons, festivals are all identically the same (as the Christians). They had apostolic founders; the manners which distinguished the immediate apostles of Christ; scriptures divinely inspired; the same allegorical mode of interpreting them, which has since obtained among Christians, and the same order of performing public worship. They had missionary stations or colonies of their community established in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Phillippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica, precisely such, and in the same circumstances, as were those to whom St. Paul addressed his letters in those places. All the fine moral doctrines which are attributed to the Samaritan Nazarite, and I doubt not justly attributed to him, are to be found among the doctrines of these ascetics."[423:3]